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  • Writer's pictureJamie Varley

You Soothe My Aching Soul

The Album

The Water[s]

The 2010s was a burgeoning time for the hip hop scene. For years, online pirating of music led to countless lawsuits and dollars that artists would never see for their work - but at the turn of the decade artists began to take advantage of the convenience of spreading music through the internet, mainly through the rebirth of the mixtape scene.

It felt like overnight, hundreds of young artists found a soapbox to express themselves from. This led to an explosion of exciting new styles and voices, ranging from the unhinged Chance the Rapper to the buttery Big K.R.I.T. to the weed smoke that puffing out from the speakers when A$AP Rocky played. But very few artists commanded the with mic with authority like Chicago’s Mick Jenkins.

When The Water[s] tape came out, we all listened. We didn’t have a choice. Mick gripped his audience with a strength of a Popeye forearm. He was stern and stoic, direct, but refreshingly poetic. Each bar was calculated without as much as a superfluous word making it to record, yet his musings and reflections were that of a man stuck in solitary confinement with nothing but his thoughts.

To balance Mick’s bellowing and assertive flow, he surrounds himself with a gentle and hypnotic backdrop, often pulling from ambient and jazz elements. There is space for his beats to weave carefully between his titanium bars with fluidity and serenity, smoothing out his chiseled edges like sea glass.

Like many of his up-and-coming Chicago cohort, there was a level of spirituality felt through his music. The album is centered around water – a cleansing and healing agent, not for the body but for the soul. While never explicitly defined by Mick, it is clear that water is a sense of belief and morality that washes away your demons. To some, this could be religion, to others, ambitions, to others it could be friendship or morality. No matter what it means to you, Mick’s focus on healing oneself by finding greatness and peace is one which we can all be guided by.


The Album

Octopus, Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus

Octopus is not for everyone. Let’s agree on this first.

To begin, it’s a tough idea to wrap your head around – what, with all the legs and suction cups. And looking past it, biting into an octopus is not a texture that we’ve been trained to love, with its chewy and muscular structure.

But the abnormal octopus experience is exactly why everyone should try it.

You can only cook chicken and beef so many times. Octopus is a completely new experience, a vacation to another world of eating. I quickly learned to appreciate the taste, a very lean and protein-filled dish with a remarkable complexion and a simplicity that anyone who enjoys sashimi or whitefish will be drawn too. Once you get past your preconceptions, octopus is a welcomed journey into a new terrain of cooking with remarkable flavours and health benefits.

It is much easier than it looks to cook. I left the octopus in a pot of simmering water for two hours, watching the colour change from translucent to a deep burgundy. Some people like to finish it off on the grill, but looking for a smoother experience, I plated it immediately after. At the same time, I boiled asparagus and halved fingerling potatoes, salted and oiled, and left in the oven at 400 for 25 minutes.


The Experience

The artwork for The Water[s] always captivated me. It is a man, a boy really, drowning – consumed in an eternal abyss as the surface flees farther and farther away. But upon listening to the tape (over and over and over again), it turns out that the water is what Mick Jenkins is chasing and yearning for – chasing the “healing component”, washing away his sins, finding purpose, finding love. It becomes apparent that Mick wants to be drowning as he is on the cover, as it is the only way to truly be free.

Octopus is a creature of the depths, fantasized as a kraken, the destroyer of ships and the tormentor of sailors. It personifies the fears of what is out there in the ocean. If Mick isn’t afraid of the water, he has made peace with its creatures. If the water is what he seeks to be consumed by, then the octopus should not be feared, but accepted.

The drink pairing came too easily – a dark and stormy. The origin of the dark and story, by Esquire:

The Dark and Stormy is a drink that came to be in the Caribbean waters, where rum is plentiful and so are sailors. It’s a drink that was spit out by the sea, more or less.

The one alteration, which I would never normally make but is essentially requested by Mick through his plethora of Canada Dry references, is to substitute ginger beer with ginger ale. It is cleaner, fizzier, and without the spicy punctuation of ginger beer, but the sweetness pairs perfectly with the rum (Kraken rum, perhaps?) for an easier experience with a focus on the rum.

The octopus alongside the cover looks like a still from a shipwreck, as the vessel’s cargo is being pulled down to the depths by the misunderstood frontier’s inhabitants. But between the music, the cover, the drink, and the food, you can tell that Mick Jenkins is at peace in the water, even if others aren’t. This is him finding his solace, letting a greater power wash over him, and whether he ends up in this world or not he knows he will be at peace.

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